The market for GPS cycling watches has become increasingly saturated with many options. This guide will help you determine what to look for to choose a GPS watch for cycling that best fits your expectations if a traditional cycling watch isn't sufficient.
GPS watches now go above and beyond basic step counters. They have the capability to track where you are in the world which makes them a perfect addition to your cycling training regimen.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a new GPS watch, and not everyone may not agree on which is the most important.
One of the biggest factors in selecting a GPS cycling watch may be the price, but there are enough options to fit your budget and expectations.
Another factor to consider might be the durability of the watch. How much punishment can it withstand? A durable watch might withstand sweat, and normal wear and tear without skipping a beat.
Additionally, you will want to consider the functionality of the watch. Does the GPS watch have several capabilities in addition to its cycling function, so that the watch can also be used as a standalone accessory? How compatible is it with your current smartphone and other fitness apps? Perhaps you expect your watch to include Bluetooth and music playback capability. Or maybe all the bells and whistles aren't for you, and you prefer killer battery capacity instead.
It is important to weigh all your options based on your GPS watch expectations, and determine which pick might fit your lifestyle and budget the best.
The first on our list of GPS cycling watch contenders is the Suunto Traverse. The Suunto Traverse has five available colors to choose from, and the sleek interface is easy to read and navigate. This watch is versatile enough to handle extreme cycling and other sports while still being a fashionable accessory.
It's GPS functionality is known to be very accurate and is variable to allow for increased battery life. It can record routes and discover new ones with the Suunto App. The GPS capability can also detect altitude and barometric pressure; alternating between the two modes automatically.
Along with the robust GPS features, it is also rugged enough to withstand scratches and can withstand being submerged in water. Along with all the other features, it also tracks the activity of other sports. It can detect your heart rate, pace, and speed, which you can then evaluate after each workout by syncing to the app.
Suunto Traverse Review
The Suunto Traverse is a great pick for individuals who love the outdoors. Whether you're outside on a bike or a hike, this watch can track it all. With a price of roughly $400, it can be a slight investment, but it should provide all the necessary functionality an avid explorer might need.
Pros: Variable GPS for extended battery life. Sleek design. A full range of functionality. Waterproof.
Cons: It is pricey, but you get what you pay for with this bad boy.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR
Garmin is a seasoned smartwatch company, and this GPS watch is yet another great addition to their offerings. The Fenix 3 HR offers versatility, functionality, and fashion in one small package.
At first glance, the watch is noticeably built tough. It is somewhat bulky with quite a bit of weight which may be an issue for women. It shouldn't be a problem with cycling and other sports, as the comfort of the watch makes all day wear a breeze.
This watch has built in tracking for many of most popular sports, and a robust app to sync the data. Along with the standard heart rate tracking, it offers many metrics about your environment; from GPS to barometric pressure. Even when all the functions are running, it still boasts great battery life, which can improve when not using the more consuming processes. It can run from 16 to 40 hours based on which functions are running.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Review
At around $600, it's a pretty sizable investment. However, if you can move past the steep price, this watch should provide all the capabilities for cycling tracking and beyond. It is quite large, which means it may be hard to get used to, but the watch makes up for chunkiness with comfort and durability. The battery life is spectacular whether you're an avid cyclist or a weekend warrior. If you can get over both the price and chunkiness of the watch, then this may be your new favorite GPS cycling watch.
Pros: Good battery life to functionality ratio. It has a full range of tracking features for your performance as well as surroundings. It is very durable.
Cons: It is one of the most expensive GPS cycling watches currently on the market.
Suunto Spartan Ultra
Suunto offers yet another option for a GPS cycling tracker; this time with the Suunto Spartan Ultra. The size is comparable to other GPS watches. It has a sleek design both on the outside and while navigating the screens. Instead of pure touchscreen, there are a few buttons on the side that you can also use to navigate through the watch. There seems to be quite a lot of customization available with at least six available watch faces. Also, the ease of viewing the stats on your current workout is flawless.
This powerhouse of a GPS watch can support tracking for 80 different sports. So, when you're not using it to track your cycling rides, you can use it to track just about anything else. The GPS function can be toggled between three different settings; good, better, and best.
The best mode updates location more frequently than the others, but also uses much more battery. Some users have noted that the GPS isn't as accurate as they thought it would be. However, the app allows you to visualize a route you would like to take, or where you have already been. Like other GPS watches, it comes with barometric pressure tracking, altitude monitoring, and a built-in compass. However, be warned that this watch does not come with a built-in heart rate monitor like other competitors. Rather, if you want to monitor your heart rate, you will have to wear a separate chest strap.
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All the tracking syncs into Suunto's app, where you can view performance and review your GPS routes. The app does not seem to have the best ratings compared to other fitness watch apps, but there could be software updates along the way.
Suunto Spartan Ultra Review
This watch is quite pricey. When you opt to include the heart rate chest monitor as well, it can reach up to roughly $800. Even with its steep price, it packs a lot of tech into such a small package. This watch would be ideal for avid cyclists, and adventurists that love to explore the outdoors and find new trails to climb.
Using the heart rate chest strap might mean more accurate readings, which could prove beneficial for fitness enthusiasts. This watch has a more sophisticated look but is also ready to go with you on the toughest cycling adventures.
Pros: Variable GPS usage to either improve accuracy or conserve battery life. It tracks hundreds of sports making it a truly all around sports watch.
Cons: It does not come with a heart rate monitor, which may be a deal breaker for some. However, if you want that sort of functionality, you can purchase a separate chest strap.
Tom Tom Spark Cardio 3
The Tom Tom Spark Cardio 3 continues to improve upon its predecessors, and at an affordable price. The sporty, rectangular design is not too bulky while still maintaining comfort.
This GPS watch rivals' other contenders by offering the same features such as a heart rate monitor, compass, calories and steps for a multitude of sports. It can playback music using Bluetooth which is something other watch models might not do. Just like other GPS watches, it can show the routes you've run, as well as routes you might be interested in.
If you find a route on the app, you can upload it to the watch for your next cycling or running trip. The battery life is excellent and can go most of the day with full tracking. When functioning as a simple day-to-day tracker, it can last a week or more.
One thing that the Tom Tom Spark Cardio does not deliver is phone notifications which makes communicating with your phone a little tougher.
Tom Tom Spark Cardio 3 Review
Overall, if you're new to cycling or running, this would be a great model to buy to get started. It's super affordable in the mid $100's. You won't feel like you're investing too much for a solid fitness and GPS watch. It is simple to use and can track the basics very well. So, if you're more interested in beginning to track your cycling and running workouts, this is a great GPS watch to get you started.
Pros: Affordable with a great lineup of features. If you are not heavy on the GPS usage, the battery can last up to a week.
Cons: It does not connect with your phone to receive notifications.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
As with the Garmin above, the Forerunner 920XT is another capable option among the many GPS watches. It comes in two colors; red and white, or black and blue. You can either buy the GPS watch with or without the heart rate strap to allow for monitoring. The design is comparable to other GPS watches and has a boxier shape. It is durable, resists scratches, and is waterproof for any swimming you might track.
The buttons on the face of the watch allow for an ease of navigation. The Garmin app is easy to setup and for keeping tabs on your cycling and other workouts. This watch is meant to be used not only as a fitness tracker but as a daily activities tracker. It will help you to reach your fitness goals while still telling you everything you need to know about your sleep and step patterns.
The app allows for customization of appearance and will learn about your goals and habits. Since this watch came out a few years ago, there have been many software updates and improvements, as well as a significant price drop. You can find the watch going for roughly $300 with the heart rate monitor.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Review
Overall, if you're looking for a full-package smart watch and GPS capable cycling watch, look no further. Even though you need a chest strap to monitor heart rate, the many functionalities make it a powerhouse of a fitness tracker.
It will become part of your day-to-day life, as well as motivate you to move, and go cycling or swimming. The app syncs seamlessly from your watch to your phone, and the GPS accuracy is great whether you're swimming, cycling, or running. The Forerunner 920XT is a great piece of tech that continues to outpace newer watches.
Pros: Lots of features and a recent price drop. It can be had for around $300. It is a GPS fitness tracker as well as a daily activity tracker.
Cons: It does not come with a heart rate monitor out of the box, this will have to be purchased separately.
This next offering is great at providing the essential features of a GPS cycling watch in a bare-bones package. The Polar M400 comes in five different colors, and the screen/interface is quite simple. It does not come equipped with a built-in heart rate monitor, but you can purchase a Bluetooth option that will sync with the watch.
The most important part is that it has built in GPS, calories, steps, and sleep all at an affordable price. The charger is different from other watches, in that it can use a micro-USB charger that you might already own from a previous electronic device. It may not be as durable as other options because it is quite slim, and built with less rugged materials.
There are several sport tracking modes, and most of them can be enabled while using GPS. The GPS signal is strong and doesn't hinder the battery life much. When just using basic fitness tracking, the battery can last up to one week. When sport and GPS tracking, it will last 2-3 days.
Polar M400 Review
If you're conscious about getting the most bang for your buck while still getting a robust GPS cycling watch, this is a great option. It can hang with the more expensive watches. It may not look as fancy, or have the sleekest of interfaces, but it shines where it counts. The only other drawback may be the separate heart rate monitor. This watch retails in the mid $100's so if you want an entry level GPS watch, this is a sure winner.
Pros: It is a reasonably priced option packed with features. It will track your day to day activities, sleep, GPS location, as well as exercise statistics.
Cons: Like others, it does not come with a heart rate monitor built in. If GPS tracking is your main concern, this shouldn't be an issue. A chest strap can be purchased and synced to monitor your heart rate while exercising.
Choosing the best GPS cycling watch
GPS cycling watches are the future of smart sports. The technology that once was science fiction can now sit squarely on your wrist.
Depending on your needs and expectations, you can find a GPS watch that will work as hard as you do. If you value the functionality and latest tech, you may have to splurge a little more. The GPS options from Garmin and Suunto are high-end options that pair the latest GPS technology with powerful fitness tracking at a higher price tag. If you're fine with the necessities while you start out cycling, the Tom Tom, and Polar options may be right for you. They still offer incredible features like GPS, and habit learning for an affordable price.
Whichever option you choose is sure to become an extension of your love for cycling. These GPS watches will surely allow you to see where you've been and help you to look forward to where you will go.